Glossary


My definition of terms that are particularly important.


  1. Circular Economy - an economy based on making, reusing and remaking: fewer resources are taken from the environment; management is sensitive and centres on renewable resources; production is efficient, clean and for long life; product and system use is efficient, with high emphasis on repairing and maintaining; products and resources are re-used (or recycled or used as an energy source if re-use is not possible). Blog posts on the circular economy here.
  2. Community - people living close together interacting and mutually involved in local events and developments - a very important antidote to isolation and alienation, especially though not exclusively in cities. A necessity of everyday life (especially for a high quality of life), stemming from the sharing of qualities that come from rich diversity. For sustainability we need strong, informed, involved, empowered, lively and resilient local communities with all the powers, resources, facilities and services to meet their needs. Blog posts on community here.
  3. Efficiency –   cutting waste of energy and materials; being thrifty; getting more output squeezed from every input of energy, material, effort,  money, time... Blog posts on doing the same or doing more using less here.
  4. Environment – not just our surroundings or the biophysical world but also humans and their social, economic and other systems. We are a part of it, are dependent on it...there are multidimensional interrelationships and feedbacks...human-centred definitions are flawed. We are always linked in and are not in control. The interconnections (see posts on environment here).
  5. Equality – treating situations, systems, people…in the same way, giving the same rights and opportunities justly and impartially…unless there are clear, justifiable reasons to do otherwise. Not discriminating on an unfair basis. See posts here.
  6. Evidence – that which gives a good reason(s) to believe and act on a claim, whether facts, data, appropriate and verifiable experiences, arguments. Substance to back claims (posts relating to this here and here).
  7. Fairness –  meeting needs now and into the future, sharing resources over time and across distances, working together, fighting  discrimination eg to trade fairly, trade sustainably, deal with risks and costs now and not pass them on to our children and theirs,  conserving resources so that they are always available. Decent, caring and honest in giving dues (see posts here).
  8. Green – for:  prosperous living, free from: waste; resource squandering; pollution; inequality; unfairness; & weakening community ie sustainable. For social, environmental and economic sustainability (see here).
  9. Greenwash - spin, public relations and marketing used manipulatively and deceptively to show you are green, ecological, sustainable or environmentally-friendly when the reality is questionable or highly questionable and obviously false. Saying you are more green than you really are (examples here).
  10. Health – ability or capacity to function well physically, mentally and socially, not just the absence of disease or condition.  Particularly closely related to needs, wellbeing and prosperity. Related posts here.
  11. Naturalism – science is not the only way to acquire knowledge but it has proved itself to be a very, very successful way indeed; there is nothing beyond the natural (ie no supernatural, god or gods); natural laws produce and run the universe, which is material/physical and has no inherent purpose. See here.
  12. Needs – factors required to enable someone/something not just to survive but to thrive, flourish and prosper; beyond the basics food, water, warmth, shelter…to the range of wider physical, mental and social factors that produce wellbeing. Ability to meet present and future needs is a key feature of sustainability (see here).
  13. Pragmatism – a practical approach to solving problems and taking opportunities, through forming theory out of what is done in practice and applying it back to practice to make it more intelligent. Stresses: what works; the dangers of either/or thinking; scientific approaches; that human beings can be wrong but still justified in holding the beliefs they do. See these posts.
  14. Prosperity -  encompassing general flourishing, thriving, general wellbeing, happiness and health as well as the economic factors. Measured much more closely by the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) or the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) than by conventional measures of prosperity such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A broad idea of progress and success, see here.
  15. Reason – thinking situations through to establish causes/effects, truth/falsehood and good/bad; obtaining and checking and interpreting facts; justifying what is or making changes based on valid and reliable, verifiable information. Making sense of things (see here).
  16. Renewability – efficient use of renewable resources such as from solar, wind, rivers, waves, tides, biomass (including food, fish, forests etc) and geothermal sources properly and sensitively managed so that the use rate is less than the replenishment rate. Use of resources such that they don’t run down or degrade (more here).
  17. Resilience - the ability of systems to retain their stability and security when subject to pressures and sudden events - and their recovery powers when affected. High resilience systems, whether people, forests, cities...tend to be self-supporting, self-reliant, self-organising and adaptable in the face of change. Building resilience means increasing diversity, variety, alternative mutual support systems and contingency plans, especially with respect to basics like food, water, shelter, energy, health and education provision, communications. See here and here on the ability to bounce back.
  18. Sustainability/Sustainable Development – where: efficiency has replaced waste; renewability has replaced squandering; living within environmental limits has replaced pollution; socio-economic goals are geared to wellbeing for all not more and more money for a few; where this generation and those to come, the world over, are getting their dues; and local communities are empowered. Dynamically stable, secure and able to persist over time (blogs on this here).
  19. Systems thinking - how parts influence each other within a whole both systematically and systemically. It is interactive and iterative/cyclic. It deals with the non-linear, with processes, webs, networks. It stresses emergent or imposed purpose and varied perspectives. It means exploring interconnections and boundaries, interdependency and interrelationships. It deals with complexity and sorts out confusion and incoherence. It examines and investigates function, organisation, structures and performance. It values and contributes to on-going and social learning and concerted action. Joined up thinking (blog posts here).
  20. Wealth –  the source of our resources and the basis of our lives, that is, the natural and social world with its whole interconnected water, air, land, biodiversity and social systems. Not mere money flow, high production and consumption or narrow progress. That which healthily sustains us (see more).
  21. Wellbeing – flourishing through: positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships and accomplishment. Broadly thriving, healthy, quality of life (see posts here).

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